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CMU’s first crop of physicians an impressive one

Team building, problem-solving shape med school’s inaugural class

Contact: Heather Smith

​Budding physicians aren't merely educated at Central Michigan University's new medical school. They're built.

And they're molded as people — into compassionate, caring doctors. It's all part of a formula of team learning and team spirit that makes the new College of Medicine stand out as it prepares to graduate its first class May 7.

The result is an undeniable feeling of family.

"The biggest thing about going to the College of Medicine was my classmates and the family feel we had there," said Matthew Wolf, who's headed for an emergency medicine residency at the CMU College of Medicine in Saginaw. "I learned that bond was really unique among medical schools."

A large factor in the cementing of that bond is the medical school's use of team-based learning, a practice developed in the 1970s that puts students in small groups while instructors shift from mere information providers to actual managers of the learning process.

Student engagement improves and the participants get closer.

Kush Sharma, a Kalamazoo resident who scored a highly competitive vascular surgery residency in Grand Rapids, Michigan, agreed with Wolf: "Our class was like a family where you got to know everyone really well."


This didn't surprise Kathryn Brandell, who also completed her undergraduate work at CMU. She knew she would be seen as a person and not as a number.

"It all was an extension of what my undergraduate experience at CMU was," Brandell said, "which was part of the reason I chose to come to the College of Medicine."

Here's a look at 10 of CMU's first-ever future doctors:

Snapshot: Brandell has wanted to be a doctor for as long as she can remember. She’s a CMU graduate and was president of the university’s first medical college class for the past three years. She found CMU’s creation of its own medical school “exciting” and “certainly didn’t want to pass up” being part of the first graduating class. In keeping with the College of Medicine’s mission, Brandell and her husband, Kevin, plan to one day move to northern Michigan where she can serve female patients in rural areas.

The College of Medicine experience: “It’s been equal parts challenging and exciting. It’s had its ups and downs as any new program would, but I found it’s brought me a lot of personal satisfaction. I felt this program was very student-focused in that I never felt like a number. They wanted us all to succeed.”

Residency: Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Michigan, for obstetrics-gynecology

Snapshot: Brockberg grew up with four older brothers and enjoys traveling. She backpacked in Southeast Asia for three months between receiving her EMT license and starting medical school. She also has passions for science and helping others and strives to combine the two. While at CMU, Brockberg formed a nonprofit called STEM Powered, a group “encouraging bright young women in the inner cities to engage and pursue the STEM field.”

The College of Medicine experience: “I was drawn to CMU and this inaugural class. It also attracted a lot of my classmates because we had a pioneering spirit and a desire to shape a culture. I look around at my classmates and just have so much respect and admiration for who they are and the physicians they’ll become. I think a lot of that had to do with the type of students CMU attracted with its mission.

Residency: Boston Medical Center for emergency medicine

Snapshot: Fortin is the oldest of five siblings and the first in her family to attend college. She ran cross country and played softball in high school. Fortin said her grandmother, who worked as an operating room transplant nurse, inspired her to go into medicine. During her time in the College of Medicine, Fortin volunteered for STEM Powered. Along with preparing for commencement and her residency, Fortin also is planning her wedding, which was set for the end of April.

The College of Medicine experience: “It was pretty jarring at first. The amount of information you’re expected to learn, especially in the first two years, is overwhelming. But the College of Medicine, the way they set up our education where we would work in teams and work through the information together, I never felt like I was alone. It really enriched my education.”

Residency: Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, for emergency medicine

Snapshot: Hurtig, who goes by his middle name, was the first president of this medical school class. His path through medical school was different from most of his colleagues, with rotations in Sanford, Michigan; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Tampa, Florida, before spending years three and four at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, Michigan. Of the Sanford assignment, Hurtig said, “It was just amazing to work medicine so close to home.” Hurtig and his wife, Amanda, are expecting their first child in July.

The College of Medicine experience: “I learned a lot about being in an inaugural program – something bigger than myself, helping to build a program. Going from Sanford to Detroit, I got to work with a lot of different folks from a lot of different walks of life. I waved the CMU banner wherever I went. It was a unique and fun experience.”

Residency: Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis for emergency medicine

Snapshot: Hussain saw CMU’s new program as an opportunity to make an impact right away. He was ranked in the top 5 percent of his class all four years of medical school. Partial to research and statistics, he participated in several research projects at CMU and published “quite a few papers” with his classmates.

The College of Medicine experience: “Central Michigan was so welcoming in regard to support, resources, funding and statistical help. What I liked about the College of Medicine was that it was active learning because you had problem-based learning, team-based learning and case-based learning. It really helped me a lot.”

Residency: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, for anesthesiology. Hussain’s wife, Hera Kamdar, will be at Ohio State as a resident in neurology. They will begin their residencies together.

Snapshot: Khan is a lifelong Michigan resident. He read about predictions of a physician shortage in the state and appreciated how CMU’s new school was rising to meet the challenge. Regarding his own future, Khan is keeping his options open but considering a career in gastroenterology.

The College of Medicine experience: “I ended up at the CMU College of Medicine because a lot of my values aligned with the values of the school: social responsibility, respect for others, caring for the underserved. I certainly enjoyed the fact that it was a smaller program. One of my first memories of starting medical school is passing professors in the hallways and some of them already knew our names, and we hadn’t met them yet.”

Residency: Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, for internal medicine

Snapshot: Kuechenmeister is a walking definition of “nontraditional student.” She went through the College of Medicine while raising three girls and working part time. Kuechenmeister met her challenges by ranking in the top 10 percent of her class all four years of med school and forming a group called FEMMED that mentors girls and women who show an interest in medicine. That effort won her CMU awards for best new student organization and best student leader. And, she did her undergraduate work in neuroscience at CMU.

The College of Medicine experience: “It was nothing but positive. I felt the professors were always accessible to answer questions. They really wanted us to succeed. CMU streamlined its application process to make sure people fit, and they were invested in those people. They’re not there to weed people out. They also make sure you’re a good person as well as a good physician. They go hand in hand.”

Residency: Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, for emergency medicine

Snapshot: Sharma was a member of the Medical School Council all four years at the College of Medicine. He enjoys all kinds of sports, especially tennis, and spending time with his family. He says he chose the college because of the smaller class size and team-based curriculum. While at CMU, Sharma completed six-month rotations at Northwestern University and in Grand Rapids, Michigan, studying vascular surgery.

The College of Medicine experience: “Being part of the inaugural class was pretty interesting because we got to form how the class would lay out for future years. The surgical clinical training benefited me.”

Residency: Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners (with Michigan State University) in Grand Rapids for vascular surgery

Snapshot: Wolf wanted to stay near home for his residency, and he couldn’t be happier with a placement in nearby Saginaw. Wolf considers himself “a small-town individual” and tries to foster a sense of community wherever he goes. He’d like to stay in mid-Michigan and pursue emergency medicine in an underserved area. Wolf’s also a big hockey fan.

The College of Medicine experience: “It’s been quite a journey; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We rolled with the changes that every new class faces, but it was a lot of fun. We got to experience the first of everything, and we got to be a driving force behind change – change in the curriculum, change in the way things are done.”

Residency: Central Michigan University College of Medicine in Saginaw for emergency medicine

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